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Saluting Branches: A National Day of Arborist Service

How can arborists say thanks to those who have served us? Military members make a commitment to protect our people and the freedoms our country holds dear, and often make the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives in service to our country. Many of these veterans make our National Cemeteries their final resting place, where their families and loved ones can visit in remembrance and gratitude for their service. Making these sites safe and beautiful for visitors is a way that arborists, like us, can honor that service and the memory of these brave men and women.


The start of something big

Many of the arborists at Rainbow Treecare, a full-service tree company in Minneapolis, and sister company of Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements, had participated in a day of service at the National Cemetery in Rainbow’s hometown for several years. This event was organized by the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture and was a great opportunity for arborists from many local companies to work together for a cause bigger than ourselves. Getting to work on the same team with people who are your competitors every other day of the year made for a fun and rewarding day of tree work. Thinking this may be something that could benefit cemeteries across the country, we reached out the Department of Veteran Affairs (DOVA), to ask if they would be interested in professional arborists uniting for a no-charge day of service, providing our arboricultural talents at these hallowed grounds. This would allow us to give back, while showcasing what we do best: provide great tree work. Not surprisingly, DOVA was thrilled with the idea.

Talking with DOVA representatives, we learned there are 119 veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country. Many of these cemeteries, particularly the larger or higher-profile sites, have contracts with professional companies to maintain the property and, by extension, the trees on the grounds. Many, however, do not have professional arborists tending regularly to the care and safety of their canopies, so that’s where we come in.

The chief agronomist for the National Cemetery Administration helped us identify the properties where our volunteers could be the most impactful. This wasn’t about trying to find the locations that gave our industry the best exposure; it was about finding the properties where we could do the most good. From the initial list of more than 100, we were able to narrow it down to 22 sites where we could be impactful. We are now set to hold our first Saluting Branches Day of Service at these cemeteries nationwide on September 23, 2015 and we are looking for your help.


Unprecedented national event

Many regional ISA Chapters have been doing Day of Service events for years. The scope of work ranges from volunteering tree work for a local Scout camp to simply serving food at a Thanksgiving soup kitchen. By uniting arborists across America for one national day of service, Saluting Branches will benefit local National Cemeteries, and help raise the profile and importance of professional tree work. Our goal is to get more than 8,000 man-hours of arboricultural labor donated on a single day. This the first time the tree care industry has sponsored a national service project on this scale.


Arborist community willing to help

Thus far, the project has been well received by the arborists with whom we have spoken.

“I love trees and have been wanting to do some volunteer preservation work for a while, I would love to help keep our veterans memorials clean and safe,” said Charles Sauder S&S Tree Service.

“Coming from a family of veterans I appreciate the sacrifice made by our men and women in uniform. I’d love to be able to use my skills and passion for tree work to give back,” said Aaron Danforth of Portland’s Arbor Solutions Tree Care LLC.

Ronald Veltre, of Broken Branch Tree Care in Ohio, expressed similar feelings. “We would be honored to show our appreciation for what they sacrificed for our country.”

This project touches many people on a personal level as well. “I have family buried in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. This is also of extreme closeness to my heart because I am a full time fireman in Durham, North Carolina and September 11th is a day that I will never forget,” said Travis Vickerson of Snell Tree Experts. While not surprised with the feedback from arborists, it has been humbling to remember what a day of service for our veterans would mean to our community.


How to get involved

Making this event a success will take the efforts of many people. We need technical arborists with the skills and equipment to perform tree work, such as pruning and tree removals. There is also a need for groundwork <dash> hauling debris, raking fallen leaves, and even weeding planting beds. Not a field crewmember? No worries, you can still contribute by being a site volunteer helping with the logistics of the day or even just helping spread the word. Anyone willing to contribute is welcomed.

If this is a project that speaks to you, there is a need for site leaders at each location. This person or team would meet with the manager of the National Cemetery a few weeks before the September 23, 2015 event to determine the scope of the work to be performed that day. In addition to determining scope, the site leaders will play a key role managing the work, equipment, and people at their designated cemetery on the day of service.

A Saluting Branches sponsorship is also an opportunity to get your brand in front of the country’s top tree care professionals, as well as gain exposure through media and public relations. We are seeking companies and individuals to help support this project financially as well as through volunteer hours.

Your involvement in this important initiative will help our industry honor veterans and make a positive impact for their loved ones. For more information about volunteering, sponsorship benefits, and current sponsorship opportunities, visit www.salutingbranches.org.

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